Monday, March 18, 2013

Looking Back on the 2007-2008 Rockets' 22-Game Winning Streak

The Miami Heat's victory over the Boston Celtics tonight, their 23rd straight, pushed them into second place for longest win streaks in NBA history, passing the 2007-2008 Houston Rockets. The Heat are, and have been, the best team in the NBA the past two seasons, and considering the state of the East this season, their win streak isn't a complete shock. The Rockets' streak is a complete shock. They won 55 games while starting Rafer Alston 74 games, playing Luther Head 20 minutes a game, and miraculously won 10 games in a row starting 41-year-old Dikembe Mutombo. Somehow, this random assortment of flawed and injury-prone players put together the 3rd-longest winning streak in NBA history.

The Rockets, like all Tracy McGrady-led teams, of course, lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz, becoming just a super random and interesting footnote in NBA history. The Heat's streak, however, prompted me to take a closer look at just how the hell a team like the Rockets won 22 games.

The 1996 Bulls never won 22 games in a row. None of the great Kobe/Shaq teams, nor the Duncan Spurs, nor the great teams of the 1980s could pull off 22 games in a row. A team led by Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming belongs in the 4, 5, or 6 seed, not in the annals of NBA history. I have no real thoughts on this matter; it is just mind blowing. I mean seriously, this is like if Edgardo Alfonzo had a 54-game hitting streak. The fact that the Miami Heat with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are in the same conversation as a team that started Severus Snape at power forward is one of the most unlikely things to ever happen in sports.

Fluky stuff happens all the time in the playoffs, but that's just part of a small sample size. An 83-win Cardinals team can get hot for 3 weeks or a 9-7 Giants team that got outscored in the regular season can win four games, but to go more than a quarter of a season without a loss is infinitely more difficult. Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming might have had disappointing careers considering their talent, but their accomplishment is underrated and unbelievable.

Tonight is the five-year anniversary of the Rockets' streak coming to an end. They used a home-heavy schedule (16 of 22 games at home) to take a 24-20 team to 46-20 (yeah I can add). It made no sense at the time, no sense now, and will never make any sense. Sports are fucking great.

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